More than 100 Coptic Christian teens have been arrested by security forces in Egypt in what the Christian community considers as pressure from the government to play down the recent fatal church shooting that made international headlines.
Since late last week, Egyptian State Security members have knocked on the doors of Coptic Christian families mostly around dawn and arrested Christian youths, according to Assyrian International News Agency. To date, according to local sources, the number of Coptic youths rounded up without warrants has surpassed 100 people and is growing.
A Nag Hammadi teacher, Anwar Samuel, told the news agency Free Copts that State Security came to his home at 4 a.m. in search of his nephew Mohareb, who was in Kuwait at the time.
After they found out Mohareb was not there, they "instead arrested my three other nephews, Fadi, Tanios and Wael Milad Samuel, and took them away in their pajamas," he recalled.
According to Samuel, his nephews have been subjected to electric shocks.
Other Coptic news organizations reported that authorities tricked Coptic youths to go with them by saying that Bishop Kirollos of Nag Hammadi diocese wanted them to go somewhere for their safety.
The Coptic community has long complained that State Security has used various tactics, including arrests, to force Christian victims to "reconcile" with their perpetrators. The "reconciliation" process, say Copts, is nothing more than a front for forcing the victims to forfeit their rights to press criminal charges.
Because of international attention given to the church shooting in Nag Hammadi, which killed six people, the government has placed heavy pressure on the church and Copts to accept "reconciliation," say Coptic rights groups.
Bishop Kirollos, especially, has been under pressure to issue a statement downplaying the negligence of the State Security, according to AINA. Assailants of the Jan. 6 drive-by shooting allegedly wanted to assassinate Kirollos, but turned their anger on other Coptic Christians when they could not reach their target.
Kirollos knew his life was in danger because he had received several death threats for criticizing the government and for demanding that Coptic Christians be reimbursed for damages to their stores and properties during a large-scale Muslim riot in November.
"I was the one intended to be assassinated by this plot, and when it failed the criminals turned round and started shooting and finishing off the young ones," Kirollos told the Middle East Christian Association in an aired interview last week after the church shooting.
Coptic Christians account for about ten percent of Egypt's population, while the rest of the country's population is nearly all Muslim.
Historically, Copts and Muslims have lived in harmony and some citizens even recall being best friends with someone of the other faith while growing up. But the recent rise of Muslim extremists in the country has escalated tension between the two communities and increased reports of persecution against religious minorities.